The commander of the Northern District Police, Shimon Lavi, testified Sunday before the State Commission of Inquiry into the Meron disaster in which 45 people were killed..
"The Meron incident is the most significant event for the Israel Police, it is probably the most significant for the northern district as well, and I am at the head of it," said Lavi in his opening remarks.
"The worldview over the years is that there is no audience restriction in Meron. This has been done for the past 30 years, no district commander has restricted an audience and that is a guiding principle of operations," the district commander said. "Any attempt to limit and place barriers could result in bottlenecks and much greater disasters."
"A few minutes before the start I turned around and went onto the stage, and I saw a completely routine event, I did not detect overcrowding. Then I jumped to the headquarters, to see what's going on in wider circles. I am not the commander of the mountain, but the commander of all the deployment, the whole operation under my responsibility," he said.
"When I got to the headquarters, reports started coming in from the field - a person fell, another fall. I grabbed a driver and flew to the scene. During the trip I realized that there are casualties, going just from the report do I declared a mass-casualty event and I arrived at the arena. The arena was a very difficult arena, an inconceivable arena.
"I arrived at the scene and saw dozens of people lying on top of each other. I saw cops and soldiers along with amazing civilians evacuating wounded with stretchers. We brought 50 stretchers from the army who also practiced for such an event. My only thought was to save as many lives as possible.
"Paths were filled the dead, people shouting, policemen vomiting, civilians vomiting and crying, even riots. I also saw children there, I think there is nothing more difficult than losing a brother, relative, son, or father. There is nothing more difficult than that - losing a family member in this incident. This is a very difficult event," he said.